Kelowna sets goal to combat homelessness by end of 2025

Click to play video: 'An ambitious plan to get everyone living on the streets of Kelowna housed'
An ambitious plan to get everyone living on the streets of Kelowna housed
An ambitious plan to get everyone living on the streets of Kelowna housed – May 10, 2022

It is an ambitious goal but one that those working to combat the homeless crisis in Kelowna say is achievable.

The Journey Home Strategy, which is Kelowna’s plan to address homelessness, is aiming to reach what’s called functional zero chronic homelessness by the end of 2025.

“We’re really looking forward to a time where sleeping outdoors isn’t the only option that people have,” said Stephanie Gauthier, executive director for Journey Home.

“That’s a term we use in our world to refer to when a community has determined that they’ve ended homelessness, in terms of having enough supports, having enough housing units, so that as people fall into homelessness in our community, we can get them housed.”

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The goal of 2025 was presented to city council on Monday as part of Journey Home’s mid-term report.

“Thinking that no one will ever fall into crisis is not realistic. Having a responsive system, so that the experience of homelessness is brief, it’s rare and it doesn’t re-occur when people find themselves there, is our goal and it is achievable,” Gauthier said.

“And in terms of the community this size, we would be talking about three people or less experiencing homelessness at any given time.”

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Since 2017, 318 supportive housing units have been built in Kelowna. While no other housing projects have been announced to date, work is underway to bring more on board.

“When we started the original Journey Home Strategy, we developed a tool and predicted we needed 300 units and BC Housing worked with the community to bring in 318,” Gauthier said.

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“We’re confident that as we share this information and have dialogue with BC Housing, certainly we will see an increased investment in supportive housing.”

Gauthier said that over the coming months, Journey Home and stakeholders will work on determining how many more subsidized and supportive units are needed to be able to achieve the goal of functional zero chronic homelessness by the end of 2025.

While it sounds ambitious, Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said it is possible but will take support and commitment on many levels, not just the city’s, to make it happen.

“I think that what is being put forward is certainly realistic,” Basran said.

“However, it’s going to be a challenge because it’s going to require a lot of work by a lot of different levels of government and the community as a whole.”

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Basran added that while housing is a critical piece, mental health and addiction also have to be addressed for the strategy to be successful.

“We need a safe supply of drugs. We need enforcement in the justice system, to be working together with health-care systems so that when somebody who is arrested, who is experiencing mental health and addiction issues, not only do they face consequences but they also have access to the help that they need,” Basran said.

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According to Journey Home, there are about 350 people experiencing homelessness in Kelowna on any given day, including those in shelters — three times that many when you consider those who are staying with family or living in RVs or motels.

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